Saturday, March 29, 2014

Reflections on a Scene from "Son of God"

So, I saw Son of God the other day. It was fairly well done (though like all movies about our Lord, there were scenes I would rather were treated differently). There was one scene that sticks in my mind that was about the two thieves who were crucified with Him.

In this scene, we see Jesus battered and bloody, dying on the cross. The good thief, after rebuking the other, asks Jesus to remember him when He enters His kingdom.

From the perspective of the world, Jesus is a dying criminal. He appears to be a failure. Yet, the good thief has the faith to ask Jesus to remember him when He enters His kingdom all the same. He believes that despite the appearances, Jesus will do what He promised.

Perhaps we should keep this in mind when we face the trials and tribulations of life as Christians. When we face suffering, hostility, mediocre/bad clergy or religious, possibly even persecution, we should look to Jesus with the faith of the good thief, trusting Jesus' promise no matter how hard things may be.

Friday, March 21, 2014

On Westboro Baptists and the Guilt By Association Fallacy

The news reports are coming out that the founder of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church (hereafter referred to as WBC) has died. While I pray for his soul as I would for any person who lived in error, I certainly cannot praise his "mission."

I'm sure that may surprise some. The media, over the past few years have consistently placed stories of WBC antics in the news whenever Christians have spoken against government attempts to redefine marriage.   It comes across as an Orwellian Two Minute Hate, trying to link Christian moral teaching with extremist hatred.

This is the Guilt by Association fallacy, which argues:
■ It is pointed out that unsavory person A accepts claim X.
■ Therefore X is false.

The point is, the truth or falsity of a belief is not nullified by the character of the person or group that holds it. It is quite possible that a person can hold a true belief for a false reason or go to an unjust extreme in applying the truth,  but that false reason or that unjust extreme does not mean Claim X is false.

The majority of Christians who recognize homosexual acts are contrary to God's will also reject the extremist views of the WBC.

Consider the signs carried by the WBC.  Now consider what the Catechism has to say:

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved. (2333)

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

There can be no just comparison of the WBC and the Catholic Church.  So people should stop seeking to use the WBC as a bugbear to vilify Christian moral teaching.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thoughts on the So-Called "Freedom From Religion"

Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The freedom of religion is normally understood to be an important part of American life. It's enshrined in the Constitution as something the government cannot infringe on.  The government can't tell me I must belong to a state approved religion. Nor can it tell me that I cannot belong to the Catholic faith... which is certainly a change from pre 19th century England, pre Constitution America or modern China or Vietnam.

In America,  such a right meant that I was free to live my life as a member of the Catholic Church, supporting and opposing laws and politicians, running my business in accordance with my beliefs. In doing so, I do not force Catholicism on others. I do my best to convince others of the truth, but I do not coerce people to do what they believe to be evil.

Unfortunately, we seem to have had a total breakdown on the concept of religious freedom. Politicians who act in accordance with their religious beliefs, laws passed by a majority of citizens who believe certain behavior cannot be sanctioned by civilized society are attacked by a vocal minority that has the support of the political, cultural and media elites. This elite has the opinion that the freedom of religion means the freedom from religion, and that is a gross perversion. It is imposing beliefs the Christian not only disagrees with, but also believes is evil to do.

The reason this is an imposition is because of this difference: The freedom OF religion means I may live all aspects of my life in accordance with what God demands of me, including my right to vote. The freedom FROM religion claims that a person has the right not to see religious activity in public... or to be affected by laws or behavior that people with religious motivations follow.

The results of such behavior is that when a majority of a state pass a law which defends the long held understanding that marriage can only exist between one man and one woman, a judge can take this distortion called "freedom from religion" and declare such laws violate the "separation of Church and state."  Why? Because the motivation is alleged to be solely based on religion and because of the establishment clause, as misinterpreted by judges, laws passed are ruled "violation" of Church and State.

But that's nonsense. The establishment of religion clause means that nobody can be forced to belong to a religion against their will. But when Christians, Jews and Muslims vote in favor of a law defending the common understanding of marriage, nobody is forced to be a Christian,  Muslim or Jew. Rather, it means Christians, Muslims and Jews agree that in light of distortion, the definition of marriage needs to be made clear in law.  THAT'S the free exercise of religious freedom.

On the other hand, judges who rule that homosexual relationships can be marriages and that Christians must treat them as such or face charges on violating "civil rights," that's interference with religious freedom to live as God calls us to live... which forbids us to assist the sin of another.

Likewise the contraception mandate. The Catholic believes that artificial contraception is a sin. To require the Catholic to participate in assisting another's sin by paying for contraception via health insurance for his employees is interference with a person's right to live according to God's commands.

The response from the "freedom from religion" mindset is that an employee shouldn't have to give up her right to contraception (begging the question) just because she works for a religious employer.

But that argument shows the unjustness of "freedom from religion."  The woman's constitutional rights are not violated by having to pay for her own contraception.   But the Catholic employer is having his constitutional rights violated by being forced to provide such contraception --as condemned by his religion-- or face fines of $100 per employee per day.

Once upon a time, people would realize the injustice of these incidents of judicial activism.  But today? Now believers are portrayed as bigots simply because they defend their rights as believers.

This injustice will continue until such a time that people recognize that the "freedom from religion" is a counterfeit right that violates true rights

Monday, March 17, 2014

We Must Be Faithful to Christ

St. Josemaria Escriva, in his work The Forge, had this to say:

460   We are not good brothers to our fellow men if we are not ready to continue behaving correctly, even when those around us may interpret our actions badly or react in an unpleasant manner.

This statement strikes me as I consider the actions reported in the media about the reaction of hostility to the St. Patrick Day parade in New York and Boston.   Political leaders and leading beer companies have announced their boycott of these parades because the leaders will not allow these parades to be hijacked for the purpose of promoting an agenda which runs contrary to what the Catholic Church teaches.  It doesn't matter that those with homosexual orientation are allowed to march -- they (like other groups) simply cannot use the parade to push an agenda -- the media portrays the faithfulness to God as being motivated by hatred... homophobia is the slur used.

It is here that St. Josemaria's quote reminds us of our obligation under the commandment to love our neighbor as ourself. If we would be good brothers to our fellow men, we must continue to behave correctly... This is not merely being civil to those who hate us. We are called to bless those who curse us, so we can't repay evil with evil.   But there is more to it than that.

Behaving correctly also means we must continue to proclaim the message if salvation, warning people that sin exists and that Jesus calls us to repent and turn to Him with our whole heart.  This means when the political, cultural and media elites try to bully and intimidate us to be silent and deny God's teaching, we cannot concede.

If we do, we will have betrayed our fidelity to God.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Credo: What Follows From Belief

In this day and age, it is common to encounter members of the Church who, while professing belief in the Church, seem to think that they are free to decide whether or not to follow the moral teaching of the Church.

That kind of thinking is a contradiction in terms.

To be a Catholic in anything more than a nominal sense is to recognize the role Jesus Christ intended for His Church... to preach the Gospel to all the nations, to bind and loose, to forgive sins and so on.  This isn't an advisory role. Jesus tells His Apostles: "Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." (John 20:23).

The Church speaks with Christ's authority. Not because she usurps it, but because Christ gives her the authority to carry out His mission.

Thus, the "Cafeteria Catholic" has a dilemma:

If one believes what the Church teaches about herself, such a person must recognize that what she teaches concerning morality comes from Christ's authority.  Remember Luke 10:16... "Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me."

However, if one rejects this claim of authority, there is no plausible reason to remain in the Church to change her teaching. Such a belief professes that the Church has no authority to impose anything, and the logical consequence is that there is no sense to try to stay, let alone change anything.

The "Cafeteria Catholic" approach is morally and intellectually dishonest approach where the person ignores the significance of what they profess to believe.

There are two things to be aware of when reading the above.  First, this isn't to be interpreted as a "let's clear the deadwood out of the Church" mindset.  Because we know the truth of the Church, encouraging people to leave is the wrong attitude. The purpose is to get all Catholics to recognize that dissent is a rebellion against God, not a faction. It is an attitude of conversion, not judgment.

Second, we must not think of this as THEY have to change. No doubt, the scandalous behavior of public dissenting Catholics must be challenged. But the obligation to follow the teaching of the Church applies to us as well. Not all dissenters are "liberal."  Many conservatives have been offended by certain social teachings of the Church, some going as far as to accuse the Pope of Marxist leanings.

If we who recognize the truth of the authority of the Church choose not to follow teachings we dislike because they go against our political preferences, we are not witnessing our faith and obedience to Christ... we're merely witnessing hypocrisy.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Judicial Abuse Through Lack of Logic

I came across an article talking about a Federal judge striking down abortion restrictions. The article points out that the judge claims abortion restrictions violate the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, saying it "impermissibly infringes a woman's Fourteenth Amendment right to elect to terminate a pregnancy before viability".

Now the relevant part of the Constitution is section 1:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

So, abortion is defined as a right protected under the Constitution while using a judicial ruling to define abortion as a right (continuing the begging the question fallacy used since Roe v. Wade).

Yet, when it comes to an actual right defined in the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The right of a business owner to practice his freedom of religion in not participating in the HHS Contraception Mandate or in not recognizing or participating in so-called "gay marriage" is very much in question.

Thus, we have an inconsistency:

■ The Constitutional Right to abortion is presumed to exist when it in fact needs to be proven.
■ The Constitutional Right to Freedom of Religion is presumed to need to be proven when it actually exists.

What our courts are doing in America is to give certain popular views the illusion of being Constitutional while ignoring certain unpopular views even though they have been recognized in the Constitution.

Such behavior is properly called arbitrary:

■ adjective
1based on random choice or personal whim.
2(of power or a ruling body) autocratic.

Christians can justifiably object to both the enshrining of abortion as a "Constitutional Right" when it is merely a judicial ipse dixit claiming it is, and object to the denial of religious freedom.  

However, the judicial activists can't. If they insist on protecting the fictional right to abortion, they are certainly bound to protect the actual right to religious freedom.

The implications are staggering:
■ Judges declare what they favor are "rights."
■ Judges refuse to protect rights they dislike.

There can be no justice when the judges behave in this manner.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Stop Panicking And Just Pray.

In certain blogs and articles, I see a lot of fear being expressed over the synod on the family changing Church teaching concerning divorce and remarriage when the previous marriage is still valid. Especially when Cardinal emeritus Kasper makes statements that seem rather... bizarre (to put it charitably).

Me? I have faith that the Holy Spirit is still on the job when it comes to protecting the Church from teaching error on matters essential for salvation. Since the Holy Spirit protects the Pope, it is reasonable to expect that, regardless of what may be said at the synod, the Pope won't be changing Church teaching from truth to error.

No doubt the media and dissenters will continue to misrepresent and raise false hopes (it happened before the release of Humamae Vitae where people wrongly expected the Church to change her teaching on contraception). But the Holy Spirit was active then, and is active now.

The Pope has asked us to pray for the synod. We should. Not in the sense of "Oh God, please don't let them teach heresy!" Rather we should be praying:

"Lord, please send your Holy Spirit over this synod  so that Your Church may be brought to a deeper understanding of what Your Son has taught about marriage."